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PR: 'Greatest Hits' of macosxhints to be published soon Press Rel
In strict violation of my "no press releases" rule, I'm pleased to announce that (after too many months of effort!) the first ever macosxhints book is soon to be available! "Mac OS X Hints - 500 All-Time Best Tips, Tricks, and Secrets of Jaguar 10.2" will be published by Pogue Press / O'Reilly, and you can see a brief overview of it on O'Reilly's catalog page.

I've been quietly working on this project (during every free minute of time I've had!) since early August, and it's now reaching completion -- now you all know why I've had some trouble finding time for completing other projects! The book isn't just a "cut and paste" job from the site to print form. Every hint was rewritten and retested from scratch, and hundreds of screenshots were added to help clarify and explain the hints. In addition, many of the scripts and programs posted here are included (the author of each program was contacted for approval to include their original work in the book - thanks to each of you for agreeing!).

In recognition of the upcoming release of the book, I'll be in O'Reilly's booth at Macworld at 4:00pm on January 7th, giving a brief presentation on how I migrated from an OS 9 "power user" and UNIX "chicken" to a 100% OS X addict and founder of Stop by if you're going to be at the show; I think we'll even have a booklet of hints to give away to everyone.

If you'd like to know a bit more about the book and its contents, read the rest of the article...

The book doesn't include all 2,700+ hints posted here; a group of people helped select 500 or so of the most interesting and/or useful, and those are the focus of the book. In addition, much of the content from my shareware OS X Guidebook is also included (there may still be a future revision to the guidebook, but that's a project for 2003!). There are (among others), chapters on the Finder, the dock, networking, the iApps, recommeneded applications, and a couple (of course!) UNIX chapters.

One thing that hasn't changed from site to print is the general approach to the subject matter. The book is a "random access" book, just like the site. You can just flip it open and read any one hint, as they are (almost) all self-contained. As such, it's probably not the best book to use to get started with OS X, but it's a great reference guide to have lying around the house.

As an aside, I wrote the book primarily as a learning exercise (and I learned that writing a book while maintaining a full-time job and a busy web site is a very hard thing to do!), and to take the space available to expand on many of the hints to make them more usable for users of all skill levels. In addition, I'm hoping that revenue from the book will cover the costs of the site in the future, so that I can continue to keep advertising free and 100% content focused. If the book sounds interesting and you'd like to help support my efforts with the site, I'd be elated if you purchased a copy, but that's as close to a sales pitch as I can get, as it's just not my style!

Happy Holidays!

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PR: 'Greatest Hits' of macosxhints to be published soon | 26 comments | Create New Account
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Authored by: balthisar on Dec 20, '02 11:43:29AM


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Good luck, Rob!
Authored by: imroot on Dec 20, '02 11:45:10AM

This looks really awesome. I'm really excited for you, and hope that it sells very well. Just one question: if one of my hints is included do I get a free copy?

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Congrats, Rob!
Authored by: Jay on Dec 20, '02 11:51:31AM

Congratulations! What an accomplishment! I'm sure you never thought this site would turn you into an author! Thanks for a great resource and I hope the publication of this book justifies the countless hours you've spent on this excellent site.

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Authored by: davidnorton on Dec 20, '02 11:56:42AM

Sounds great... congratulations... this is huge. Very very cool stuff. is selling it for $17.47... does Mac OS X Hints have an affiliateship with them?

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On the forum site...
Authored by: robg on Dec 20, '02 01:46:52PM

There's a store on the forum site, but I don't think we have the book in there yet...


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Authored by: porkchop_d_clown on Dec 20, '02 12:15:06PM


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Authored by: arthurnguyen on Dec 20, '02 02:27:08PM

I'll definitely get a copy for myself

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Authored by: barrikady on Dec 20, '02 06:15:05PM

Excellent news! See ya at MacWorld

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Authored by: greggo on Dec 20, '02 09:25:39PM

Well Done Rob. I imagine it will sell very well. It's a great opportunity to for us MacOSX Hints visitors to show our support for the years of hard work you have put in. I wish you the greatest success.

greg @

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Intellectual Property Concerns?
Authored by: Anonymous on Dec 20, '02 09:49:55PM
You have my hearty congratulations. I would like to bring up a question that this announcement brought to my mind. You should know that I'm not bringing this as any sort of attack, but I am sure it will come to others' minds as well.

I don't see anything on the submission page regarding the submitted hint becoming your property or the property of the website. So how are you handling the possible intellectual property concerns? I in no way discount the incredibly massive energy you take to act as editor of this site, which, in my eyes, is categorically the BEST and most useful Mac OS X website on the Web. But wouldn't the hints be considered the intellectual property of those who tendered them, since the submission process doesn't contain any explicit tendering of those rights? Thus, wouldn't they be entitled to royalties from your book? Are they given credit?

None of these matters to me, actually; if I were to find that a hint of mine made it into it, I'd be rather excited (although perhaps a bit peeved if I was not given credit for the hint somewhere in the book, even on an acknowledgements page).

But I am sure the question will be raised by others, so perhaps getting an answer to these thoughts posted early (and when it is being posed by a friend and not a troll) is probably in your best interests. You might want to talk with O'Reilly's lawyers, too, if you haven't already.

The post is meant primarily for Rob, but any legal or educated, non-troll, non-flame opinions are certainly welcome, too! Remember, I am not attacking Rob; as I say above, I love this site. I'm just wondering how he's going to handle what I perceive as a potentially problematic issue ... I'm a legal assistant, so I know that people nowadays are really very sue-happy ... I'm just trying to prep Rob for a possible OUCH situation. But copyright law's very far out of my forte, though ...

(I will be buyin' this book, most likely!)

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Re: Intellectual Property Concerns?
Authored by: newbish on Dec 20, '02 10:36:00PM

Rob, congratulations! I can't wait until I can get my copy! MacOSXHints has been a terrifice site and has helped me learn a great deal more than I could have accomplished on my own.

Second: (I sincerely appologize for the length of this posting)
Mike, not a bad thought, but I think in this case Rob is safe. The key word is 'editor'. Keep in mind, I obviously haven't read the book yet, so any of my opinions should be kept in that light. If a newspaper decided to print an anthology of its opinion section over the past century, they are within their rights to publish that material. Submissions were sent freely in the assumption that they would be printed in a public forum. If you paid the newspaper to print what you wrote, then you still own the rights to that article. If the newspaper paid you to write that article, then they would own the rights. It costs the newspaper publisher a certain amount to prepare something for printing in the paper. Consider this service as barter for the rights to print your article.

Rob is the editor of Therefore, he is trading his effort to publicly post submitted items that contributors have submitted for the right to publish these things. These items were submitted freely into a public forum. Rob is being paid for his efforts to collect, organize and edit these items into a readable anthology so readers can educate themselves better. Otherwise, these things would never have seen the light of day. (And keep in mind that people who submit things to be posted are called, "Contributors.")

Another think to consider -- using UNIX-related submissions as an example -- is that the vast majority of items submitted are pretty much standard practice to unix administrators. These things are simply new to us. This means these submissions are not copywritable by the submitters, they are prior art. As these things are used by thousands of people over and over, any copywrite claim would be considered unprovable.

Last, the people who have posted their hints here have done so in an effort to help their community of Mac-users learn to get more out of their investment into this operating system. They put these things up here for people to use and learn. That says something about the caliber of these people, their desire to help others. If someone is upset by something they submitted showing up in the book — well, how can they prove that it was their's, and not one of a dozen other identical submissions?

Keep up the good work, EVERYONE!

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Extra detailed response...
Authored by: robg on Dec 21, '02 08:19:13AM
It's a valid question, and one I gave a lot of thought to before the project started. Here are some things to consider about this project...
  • First and most important, no hint from this site is simply copied and pasted into the book. Every single hint was written from scratch (which is why it took me so long to write), using the hints on the site as the explanation for how the hint worked. As writing for the web and writing for print are very different, there was no point in trying to cut and paste. As such, nobody's original thoughts, except mine, are included in the book (exception noted below). Put another way, anyone would have had the rights to do what I just did, as there are no copyright issues on using what others have written (because I didn't!). Similarly, anyone who wanted to could create a book based on the content of the MacFixIt site or the MacRumors site or the MacSlash site -- as long as the author wrote all of the content themselves! But the editors of those sites will have an easier time of it if they choose to write the book themselves (as did Ted Landau on MacFixIt), as they probably have better access to the site's content database than do most normal viewers. The only thing you could not do in this scenario would be to use the name of the site in the name of your book without their permission - only I have the rights to publish a book called "The Greatest Hits of" without seeking my permission :-). But you could certainly do what I did and call it "500 Amazing Jaguar hints" and I would have no recourse to sue. In fact, if you did it as described above, I doubt I'd even recognize that you used tips as the source (since you would have re-written everything in the book).

  • Regarding copyright issues on taking others' concepts and turning them into a book, newbish has the general concept down. Most everything that appears on the site falls into a "general knowledge" area. How could one person copyright the fact that when you hit Shift Command Control 4, you capture an area of the screen to the clipboard? That hint was posted here, and there's certainly a copyright owned by whomever posted the article on their description of the process of using this feature, but there's no copyright on the general feature itself. So if "Susan" wrote "Hey OS X users - the killer key combo sh-cm-cn-4 takes regional captures to your clipper," and I put that in the book, then I probably have violated her copyright on her writing. But I didn't do that. Instead, I wrote an entirely different sentence, and added in three descriptive screenshots with captions, that described the same feature. So there's no copyright violation - Susan certainly doesn't own the rights to describing a feature common to every copy of OS X. If she did, then there could be no such thing as multiple books on OS X -- the first one out the door would shut out all the competition! If there's anyone who might own the copyright on the feature being described, it's the authors of the program containing the feature, not the author of the hint describing the feature. But I somehow believe that Apple, Adobe, etc. are quite interested in having more information available about how to use their products rather than less.

  • Of the 2,761 hints published here, I personally wrote 677 of them. So there's a fair number of hints in the book which were clearly mine to cut and paste if I wanted to (but I chose to rewrite those as well).

  • There are exceptions on the site to this "general knowledge" rule. There have been AppleScripts and Perl and shell scripts posted that are original creations of the submitting authors. In every one of those cases (and there were less than 10 that wound up in the book), I contacted the authors directly, explained what I wanted to do, and asked for their permission to do so. If anyone had said no, I would have left out the actual script, and just included a pointer back to the website (which I clearly have the right to do) for the details. However, every author I contacted wrote back with their approval, and most added something like "I assumed when I posted it there, since the entire world could copy and paste it whenever they wanted, that it was basically part of the public domain."

  • The bottom of every page on the site says copyright, and then also includes a note that trademarks and copyrights are owned by their respective owners. These statements are both still true, and I don't feel I violated either of them by creating the book in the style in which it was created. If hints were copied and pasted verbatim, then I would feel much differently. But this book is an original project based on the general concepts discussed on the website. Not even the titles of the hints were carried over, but even if they were, I write all the titles on the site anyway!
So that's about where the project stands from a legal standpoint. Could someone try to sue me? Potentially, although I think the grounds would be quite weak based on the method of the books creation -- anyone could have done this just as I did. I hope, of course, that nobody will, as I am clearly not going to get rich, retire, quit my day job, or even stop asking for subscriptions based on having the book available - it's just not that lucrative of an endeavour (first books in particular as the author is an unproven entity). Computer books don't sell millions of copies; Mac computer books in particular don't sell many copies at all when compared to the universe of computer books; the segment is just too small. As I said, I hope to make enough to keep the site advertising free in the future, but that's about the extent of my monetary thoughts.

Finally, someone asked the question regarding "If you use my hint, do I get a free book?" The answer is "it depends." If your hint contained an original script that I wanted to use, then yes, you will receive a copy of the book when it hits the streets (and you would have already known this, as we would have had an email exchange about it). But if you were the one who submitted the "shift command control 4" hint, then, no, I'm afraid you won't be receiving a book. As much as I'd love to give a book to everyone whose general concept wound up in the book, the economics of the situation clearly make that impossible. I get a relatively limited number of "author's copies" for free, and anything beyond that I have to buy at a fairly healthy cost (not full retail, but not cheap, either). With 500 hints in the book, purchase and distribution of free books to anyone whose general concept hint wound up being covered would break the bank for me -- I'd end up losing my shirt on the book project! And while I didn't decide to write the book to get rich, I hope not go broke because I chose to write it.

I hope this long-winded reply addresses most of the concerns, and I understand the need to question the project. But the single most important thing to remember is that less than one percent of the site content is copied and pasted into the book (and explicit permission was granted for those items); everything else was written from scratch using only the topic as the guide for the book version of the hint. The book is an original creation guided by the concepts covered on the site.


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Extra detailed response...
Authored by: deleted_user18 on Dec 22, '02 06:41:25AM

Congratulations! Propably this and "OS X Unleashed" are the two books I will recommend to every Linux-switcher who buys a Mac!

But honestly I would handle the submitting of a hint different in the future. It should be clear for everybody who submits a hint that his hint might end up in a "OS X Hints, Vol.2" book.

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Authored by: robg on Dec 22, '02 10:15:19AM

I'll probably change the site footer to match the forum site, which reads: "Site design © 2002; individuals retain copyright of their postings
but consent to the possible use of their material in other macosxhints' content," or something along those lines.


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Extra detailed response...
Authored by: nixGuy on Dec 24, '02 04:15:04AM

Congrats Rob. I for one am working on a small booklet for the sys admins who use mac as the server or in a network environment.
I am not the guy who invented any of the tips that I am workin on except that I discovered some in the process. I for one understand that the process was always there and what I did was use it in my own way. I am documenting them for others to read and use. So what I am asking for is not the rights to the process but the effort I put in giving it to the masses. I your case it might be different. But what I understand that you are doing is absolutely right.
The question of copyright does not arise as you an editor and have every right to use content from your published material.
If I post to a site, it is implied that in future I can be quoted. No one needs my permission. But if I have defined a process and that process has to be quoted all I would need is a mention. Nothing more, nothing less.
I will be one who would like to buy your book. I say "Like" cause I am far away in India and the local book seller for O'Reilly does not carry the Mac books. I have to place order 60 days in advance and pay twice the dollar money in local currency. Well so be it.
Please let the world ejoy the fruits of your labor. Great work Rob.

Another thing lastly: I appreciate the site a lot. I may not be able to contribute. I think that you earn the right to publish the book as you do a gret service to the Mac community at large.

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Authored by: jason mark on Dec 21, '02 09:11:02AM

Hey congrats!

As someone who's submitted a few hints of my own, I honestly wouldn't mind one bit if you published my hints "as is" without editing, and maybe just gave me a bi-line (i.e. hint submited by Jason Mark).

As you look forward, if this book becomes something you upate on yearly or bi-yearly basis, I would suggest you re-write your sumittal page to allow you to simply use ANY post on the site AS IS, without needing to pay a royalty fee. I think you deserve it for all the work you're doing, and I think the Mac community benifits from it.

just my 2 cents.

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Heartiest Congratulations!
Authored by: Viridian on Dec 21, '02 03:22:48PM
I've praised and thanked Rob for Mac OS X Hints several times before, publicly and in emails, and I'll continue to do so at every opportunity (Thanks Rob!) But lately I've been bothered by the nagging thought that Rob is fibbing about there being only one of him. I mean, think about it: How does one guy manage to balance his personal and professional lives, AND put in the obvious effort required to maintain a site like this, AND take time to answer emails, AND write and edit a book? Come clean, Griffiths! We know that the movie Multiplicity was based on your life, and there's gotta be at least 2 clones of you out there somewhere. Whatever the truth of the matter, I for one am profoundly grateful. Thanks again Rob, and all the best to you and your family this Christmas. Now go get some rest.

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Authored by: Twitch on Dec 21, '02 05:40:26PM

Hey Rob-

Congrats, I think you'll have a killer book when it's released. What an accomplishment! Very happy for you, keep up the great work. I'll be picking up a copy of this for sure


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Legal or not.... misleading
Authored by: Tyrhan on Dec 22, '02 12:54:13PM

Why not give it a way ? I for one thought, it was great to see a site put all the great hints together. But some how it seems like you are profiting off the hints, rather misleading.

I would like to see it given away in a pdf book as a gift to all the people who took time out to share some knowledge. How can you ask for support from Paypal and then publish a book !

Lets be clear, any suggestion you make could be used in my future book. I beleive the generosity of posters will decline.

boo hoo in this festive season !

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My response...
Authored by: robg on Dec 22, '02 01:51:45PM
I sent a longer private email explaining my position, but I'll state a brief summary here for the record:
  • The hints are available free, right here, all day every day, and 5x more numerous than the book.
  • There are no ads here and just one "please subscribe" box. That's it in terms of arm twisting for payments.
  • If you want a free book of the site, use File -> Save as PDF to create it.
  • Unlike other sites that require paid subscriptions to access their best features, everything on is available to everyone, all the time.
  • If you don't like the site, or the way I run it, then don't support it or the book.
Whether people choose to keep contributing hints or not is up to them, not me. If they stop submitting, then they stop, and the site will go back to what it started as - a public database of information on OS X, and a place for me to keep all the nuggets I discover about OS X ... you, of course, would then have to find another supplier for hints beyond those that I could supply myself, as the pace here would slow down greatly. I also guess I'd gain about 1,000 hours of free time next year, which wouldn't be a bad thing.


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My response...
Authored by: Accura on Dec 24, '02 06:13:23PM


hehehe good call rob

to all you people out there fishing for free copies, fork out some of that dosh and give back to the site that we all have taken so much from, i know i will


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Tyrhan, you're talking rubbish.
Authored by: Viridian on Dec 22, '02 06:22:52PM
Let's see: are you suggesting that Rob's time is in some way worth nothing? Or did you personally contribute enough through PayPal to ensure the continued survival of this site? Or is it that you come from a universe in which all published books are guaranteed success? I fail to see what logic you used to arrive at your conclusions that the number of posts will decline, or that publishing a"Greatest Hints" compilation is somehow misleading. In what way is it misleading to distill and present these hints in a more easily comprehensible form? If one subscribes to your "logic" then the entire "Missing Manual" series from Pogue Press is nothing but an exercise in plagiarism, and David Pogue should be roundly reviled as a mercenary opportunist.

You are under no duress to either buy the forthcoming book or to use this site, and it seems to me that you expect Rob to expend his time and effort for no return. By the way, what have you contributed to what I consider to be a community effort? I think you've outed yourself as the real Grinch here.

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Good For You!
Authored by: bjast on Dec 23, '02 11:20:55AM

You deserve it for all your hard work helping expand our understanding and appreciation of OS X.

Bill J.

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Excellent news!
Authored by: imageworx on Dec 23, '02 08:37:20PM

I say, cheers!

And to Tyhran, "you snooze, you loose".
A site is a full time job. What about the hosting costs? What about the programming and feedback? The support? The time out each day (and night) to reply and post info? To proof and re-read?

There will always be someone that gripes. I know, as I griped to Ted Landau when he turned to the inevitable subscription model. Ofcourse, he did offer a free year subscription to anyone that provided knowledgeable info that would be posted and their recognition inclusive. But you know, if you don't want advertiser's flash banners, or tacky pop-up windows, then income must be generated somewhere. Paypal is small time...

When's the 2nd edition coming out? ;)

Happy Holidays and good luck! The hints have saved me much time. And time is money...

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Authored by: semios on Dec 23, '02 09:25:47PM

Congratulations Rob. I have a question regarding what gives you the biggest boon financially? I imagine if you have a link on your site that somehow you'd get a bigger cut than someone purchasing it through o'reilly or at a bookstore. If this is the case, I'll wait for you to sponsor a link, otherwise I'll just pre-order it from o'reilly.

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Best Wishes!
Authored by: macmath on Dec 25, '02 09:57:47AM

I think it is a great idea to write the book. Users of the site benefit in that it provides more insurance that the site can remain free and ad-free. I can see the possibility that *more* hints might find their way to the site as the book might draw people to the site who would otherwise have not visited. At any rate, I submit that the vast majority of the contributors are from the soul of the Unix and Macintosh communities; people who give freely of their time and knowledge for the good of the whole. Rob is one of these people. They will only be pleased about the book because the book will increase people's knowledge and its proceeds (in helping the site) will further the distribution of knowledge.

Regardless of any of the pseudo-arguments placed here against publishing the book, how many things do you put 1200 hours into and then gladly *pay* to do it. Rob has a right to be not only reimbursed, but remunerated for the site and the work he puts into it.

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